Thursday, April 01, 2010

Hopey Changey Stuff

I found a little (if temporary) good news this morning. A federal judge has ruled that the unfettered domestic spying of the Bush administration is not so unfettered after all.

From the Los Angeles Times:

In a repudiation of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism surveillance program, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the government violated federal law when it failed to seek warrants to spy on two lawyers working for an Islamic charity in Oregon.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker rejected assertions by both Presidents Bush and Obama that their state secrets privilege shields them from lawsuits filed by American citizens investigated under a disputed domestic spying program launched after 9/11. ...

The Bush administration, believing that its strategy for fighting terrorism justified bypassing the FISA statute, didn't attempt to defend its wiretapping practices in the Al-Haramain case. Rather, it argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because allowing it to proceed would undermine national security.

The Obama White House surprised some civil libertarians when it decided to continue defending Bush's claims to expanded powers to shield controversial counter-terrorism actions from lawsuits. Some advocates had expected Obama would change the policy.
[Emphasis added]

While the Justice Department has not given any hints, I suspect that an appeal will be filed and will be taken up to the Supreme Court. Somewhere along the way, the appeal will be granted, and another appeal taken up to the Supreme Court. Given its current makeup, the highest court of the land will hold, probably by a 5-4 decision, that "state secrets" trump civil liberties.

What is so galling is that we were promised change from the policies of the last administration, yet Mr. Obama's administration continued the tradition of its predecessors by invoking the same lame excuse for warrantless wire tapping. In this case, there is no denial by the government that the attorneys for an Islamic charity were spied upon. Instead, the government urged that if the case for damages were allowed to proceed, the plaintiffs would have access to "highly sensitive" information. Eric Holder's department echoed that defense.

I guess the concept of the "Unitary President" is acceptable once you're the beneficiary of all that power.

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